Graffiti pioneer Hec One Love brings his Loveism Campaign to Dubai.
Miami graffiti pioneer Hec One Love is bringing his Loveism Campaign to the people of Dubai. Known for his massive walls and postgraffism abstracts – the evolution of graffiti art – Hec is showcasing more than 100 works in his largest collection ever on display to the public, at Street Art Gallery until Saturday December 20.
Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Hec grew up surrounded by old books and lived a childhood rich in art and culture, though poor in everything else. Emigrating to the US in 1982, Hec quickly found himself moving deep within Miami’s still underground hip-hop scene. Within a year, he was one of the first graffiti writers in south Florida. ‘I’m first and foremost a street artist. That realisation saved my life,’ Hec begins. ‘When the internet came about, I googled myself, and saw a lot of my stuff from the ’80s has been preserved and uploaded. I realised that my legacy was bigger than I thought, so it made me think about the impact that a street artist has. Then came the responsibility of what I wanted my legacy to be, which is how Loveism came about.’
Hec is an abstract painter whose large-scale works reinvent action painting, giving it a street aesthetic. His signature splatters and drips ‘render colour a palpable presence’, while his bold use of typography in his Loveism Campaign ‘subverts the omnipresence of iconic, commercial branding.’
Hec says, ‘I’m looking at it as a campaign, to inspire a movement for higher thinking and to raise the level of consciousness. The word itself is a very powerful one, Loveism, capitalism, communism, if you use Loveism, a lot of people will have an idea of what it means but I don’t want to say too much.’
By 1986 Hec had established himself as a leader of the Miami graffiti movement. He founded Together We Bomb, better known as TWB and Masters of Bombing, or MOB. He also co-founded the Alive5 crew. Hec initiated Miami’s original Wall of Fame and was one of three teenagers in the city selected for a graffiti exhibition at the West Dade Regional Public County Library. ‘It was very difficult in the beginning; I got in trouble with the law. In 1983 there were no cell phones, internet and no standing respect or appreciation for graffiti. It wasn’t something you thought you could make a career out of. There was nothing positive associated with it. I did it anonymously and I was just addicted to it. It was just something that kids looked at and understood,’ he says.
Hec studied graphic design at Miami’s International Fine Arts College, worked in commercial design throughout the ’90s and founded his own web design firm in the early 2000s. By 2005, he had returned to the streets, at first creating more traditional graffiti pieces, and then developing his current large-scale unique abstract style. ‘My heritage influences my work a lot. The colour is the most present element. You can tell I come from a tropical country from my paintings. My grandmother gave me a watercolour set and we used to paint together in the garden, so from early on I was using watercolours and creating collages with newspapers in my room,’ says Hec. His iconic Hec One Love logo stickers can be seen throughout South Florida and Latin America.
In 1983, Hec went to New York. ‘I got pictures of very traditional graffiti and when I came back to Miami I started the first Wall of Fame there,’ he says, which heightened his fame in the early ’90s. ‘I became recognisable because I was the only one at the time doing graffiti at same the level of New York,’ he says.
‘What I do now is contemporary modern art, abstract expressionism. Graffiti is the door to the art world, it allows somebody like me – somebody who has no business being in the art world – onto a museum platform.’
Hec’s work on canvas was shown at the NOW Contemporary Gallery in Wynwood in 2012. ‘When I started people did graffiti just for the art, now you have people doing it for money and to be famous. It’s changing the whole dynamic of the culture. In a way it was more real and pure when I started,’ says Hec. The artist curated a Miami Street Collective wall installation at Fountain Fair Miami for Art Basel 2012 and also showed his works during NYC Art Week 2013 to celebrate the Armory Show Centennial.
‘Don’t come to the exhibition expecting graffiti. This is postgraffism – it’s more sophisticated. Experience has taught me to listen to the work, as you add more layers the painting tells you where it wants to go, it has a personality of its own,’ says Hec.
With more than 30 years of experience under his belt, the graffiti pioneer’s colourful Loveism exhibition is sure to make a splash in Dubai.
Free. 10am-7pm. Until December 20. Street Art Gallery, 10B Street, Jumeirah (055 888 8247).